Ms. Ketoera Aparaka, 45 years, and Ms. Anna Nantawi, 52 years, from the village of Tepu, a predominantly Trio indigenous community in the south east of Suriname, know the importance of renewable energy. In 2015, Ms. Aparaka and Ms. Nantawi left their village of approximately 400 community members, to participate in solar panel training in India provided by the Barefoot Women’s Empowerment Program. The women, now qualified solar engineers, have since installed solar panels in their own homes, other community buildings and have provided informal solar panel training to women in their village.
Tepu, situated near the Tapanahony River, generates electricity from burning fossil fuels. Community members are primarily dependent on the Government of Suriname’s (GoS)’ fuel for energy provision, of which is delivered free, for sometimes up to six hours per day, however often less.
The Amazon Conservation Team Suriname (ACT-S) is now helping Ms. Aparaka and Ms. Nantawi to turn more lights on in Tepu. On 20 April 2017, the ACT-S, a local non-government organization, was officially awarded $50,000 to support the installation of solar panels in 50 homes in the community. The project funds, awarded by the UNDP through the Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Partnership, funded by the Japanese Government, will support Ms. Aparaka and Ms. Nantawi to install the solar panels and train other women and men to install and maintain the panels over the coming 12 months.
The ACT-S stated “By using renewable energy sources like solar energy, the community also reduces a dependence on fossil fuel gas and oil reserves in this community, which are becoming more expensive and difficult to transport to remote areas. It also improves our energy security”. The ACT-S reported that the village consumes approximately 35 thousand litres of fossil fuel on an annual basis.
ACT-S acknowledged that the lack of reliable and affordable energy has had a number of impacts on the community. Ms. Audrey Berenstein, Finance and Human Resource Manager of ACT-S who attended the official grant contract signing reported, “In the rural interior, extreme droughts and severe wet seasons can impact food security. Every year food shortages occur periodically. The solar panels can support community members to hunt and fish and then refrigerate or freeze foods, this will improve efficiency and productivity as well”. Ms. Berenstein continued “At present schoolchildren can only complete homework during daylight hours”. She stated, “Energy provision can also support the village in small agro-enterprises and tourism businesses. Energy supply plays an important role in the accommodation of tourists. The solar panels are a more reliable and environmental friendly energy source than the generators that operate with fossil fuel”.
The ACT-S highlighted, “Only a few households, governmental agencies and NGOs in Tepu know and or use solar power at present. Most of the existing solar systems in the village aren’t working. These weren’t maintained correctly, due to insufficient skills in the community”. The pilot project, will build local capacity to adequately maintain existing and new solar systems. The trained workers may also provide solar related services to neighbouring villages, which will support revenue making for the purchase of additional tools and equipment. Ms. Berenstein stated “we are thrilled to work with the community to support them to become more resilient to climate change, reducing fossil fuel use and increasing renewable energy through solar panels will bring so many benefits to the community and environment”.
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